When it comes to summer, there's nothing quite like spending a lazy day lounging in your hot tub. But what if a thunderstorm rolls in while you're soaking? Can you still hot tub safely? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
You should never use a hot tub during a thunderstorm. A hot tub contains electrical parts that can attract lightning and cause it to strike. In addition, the water in the hot tub could serve as a conduit for electricity to travel through.
In simple terms, your risk of getting shocked or electrocuted goes up substantially. While a simple rainstorm isn't a reason to stay away from your hot tub, developing thunderclouds are.
Here are seven things to know about why hot tubbing and thunderstorms do not mix.
1. Staying away from the hot tub can save your life
The CDC recommends practicing specific safety measures during a thunderstorm. They state that taking shelter indoors is preferred over being outdoors. Here is what you should do and avoid:
- Do not use any device that's connected to an outlet through an electrical cord.
- Refrain from taking showers, baths, or using any plumbing. This means no washing dishes or taking shelter near indoor plumbing.
- Do not use traditional landline phones or phones connected through a cord.
- Keep away from your doors and windows.
- Do not stand under a tree or lay down on the ground.
- If outside, find the nearest shelter as soon as possible.
- If shelter isn't near, get into a ball position with your head tucked down, feet positioned together, and your hands over the ears.
By being in a hot tub during a thunderstorm, you increase the chance you'll become the victim of a lightning strike. Consequences range from life-threatening injuries to death. About 10% of those struck by lightning pass away.
Of course, this also means that even if your hot tub is located indoors, you should still wait until the storm is definitely over.
2. You can get electrocuted in a hot tub
In case you weren't sure, you can get electrocuted in a hot tub. There is underwater lighting in a hot tub, plus underground electrical equipment and wiring. Hot tubs use pumps and filters that are connected to an electrical source.
In normal circumstances, you can't get electrocuted if those electrical components are bad, as you are protected by a GFCI outlet. If there's a short in one of the parts that make your hot tub work, the GFCI will shut off the power before it can cause problems.
However, lightning can still strike both the water and those electrical parts in your hot tub.
3. Don't use hot tubs when thunderstorms are in the forecast
You might think it's okay to use a hot tub before or immediately after a thunderstorm. But this simply is not the case. You should stay away from your hot tub whenever a thunderstorm is on the horizon. If the weather forecast says thunderstorms are possible, change your plans.
That's because thunderstorms can form quickly. You might not have enough time to move out of the hot tub to safety. Lightning can also start before any rain does or the skies are completely covered in clouds.
It's best to stay away from a hot tub's water and electricity before a storm, during the storm, and after the worst is over (just in case it comes back). You'll significantly reduce your chances of harm.
4. Hot tubs can attract lightning
Hot tubs can attract lightning. However, it might not always be for obvious reasons. Here is why hot tubs can attract lightning:
- Electrical components, even if they're grounded by GFCI outlets
- Other structures and objects that are in close proximity
The last one is the least obvious. But lightning can often travel through a structure or object that's located near your hot tub (think things like pergolas, umbrellas, or seating). The electrical current could then go through your hot tub and into your body.
This is how you can become electrocuted even if lightning doesn't directly strike your hot tub. Lightning is known to travel through the ground and impact people and objects that might be near where it directly strikes. It's best to just remove yourself from the equation.
5. Protect your hot tub from the storm too
Exposure to heavy and prolonged thunderstorms can damage your hot tub. Besides using GFCI outlets (as is required by most building codes), you can do the following to protect your spa:
- Protect your hot tub cover and be sure to secure it over the tub when thunderstorms or heavy rains are expected.
- Consider installing a roof over your hot tub.
By keeping an eye on the weather, you can perform these activities before trouble strikes.
6. Have a plan for emergencies
Despite the best precautions, sometimes thunderstorms come out of nowhere. They're not in the forecast and suddenly lightning and thunder start up around you. And you're in the hot tub.
When emergencies like this happen, it's best to have a plan so you can quickly spring into action. This includes becoming CPR trained and certified for fellow family members or guests.
If you live alone and are the only one who uses your hot tub, be sure a neighbor or local relative knows when to check on you. Also, know where all the switches and circuit breakers are that control and connect to your hot tub.
This is good to know in general, aside from thunderstorm risk!
7. Watch for health issues and complications from electric shocks
If the worst happens, restoring a person's breathing through CPR isn't the only thing to worry about after getting shocked or electrocuted. Burns are a real threat and emergency rooms should address these. However, you can temporarily use sterile bandages on burn areas before getting to the ER.
Should you ever have to deal with first aid after an electric shock, other things to watch for include:
- Heart attacks
- Blackouts or loss of consciousness
- Muscle contractions and pains
As anyone who has ever been hit by lightning knows, water is an excellent conductor of electricity. That's why using a hot tub during a thunderstorm is such a dangerous idea.
Not only are you putting yourself at risk of being struck by lightning, but you're also increasing the chances that electrical current will flow through the water and into your body. In addition, metal objects like hot tubs can attract lightning, making them even more dangerous during a storm.
If you hear thunder, see thunderheads in the sky, or have thunderstorms forecast in your area, it's best to leave hot tubbing for another day. Avoid using a hot tub—or any other body of water—until the danger has passed.